7 June, 1919
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a group of young Australian aviators are set to leave England for a pioneering flight home – and they include Charles Kingsford Smith.
Kingsford Smith never did take part in the Great Air Race, though.
Why? Well, according to These Are Facts, the autobiography of Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams, the manager of the Blackburn Aircraft Company in London had Kingsford Smith replaced.
“I was interested to know why the Blackburn Aircraft Company desired a change and was informed that the pilot concerned had, with his friends, purchased an aircraft from government disposals and was barnstorming in the country and contrary to civil air regulations was landing in fields not approved for that purpose,” Sir Richard writes.
“I was also told that he had found that he could insure his aircraft for an amount in excess of that for which he could replace it and there had been some crashes. The Blackburn Company’s view was that this was undermining not only civil aviation control … but it was also damaging aviation insurance which was just getting established.”
Sir Richard’s autobiography also sheds light on why the race was delayed so long after the Australian Government made the official announcement. Apparently, Sir Richard made the decision to postpone the departure because conversations with Val Rendle (also of the Blackburn Kangaroo team) and others led him to believe crews were planning to set out “without adequate arrangements being made, taking risks and perhaps not informing us fully about their route”.
Sir Richard believed the result could be “much loss of life” and a “great deal of harm” to the aviation industry.
Kingsford Smith found fame nine years later, making the pioneering flight across the Pacific from the United States to Australia with Charles Ulm in 1928.